Monday, December 16, 2013

MARTIN SCORSESE : One of AMERICA's Most Important Film Makers

Bureau of Arts and Culture Magazine : FILM

One of AMERICA's Most Important Film Makers 

by Joshua A. TRILIEGI  

This year, we will be given another opus film by one of the greatest 
film makers that America has ever created. Strange and challenged  
experiences in life seem to create great artists of a major caliber. 

Martin Scorsese was a child entangled with sickness, born of Italian 
parents in a tough neighborhood, he retreated into the great movie 
houses of New York City, learned the craft of classic film making by 
watching the great early American directors such as John Ford, John 
Huston and Orson Welles. From the European masters, Mr. Scorsese 
was influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, Luchino Visconti, Jean Renoir, 
Michael Powell, Roberto Rosellini, Frederico Fellini, Andrzel Wajda & 
Mizoguchi Kenji among others.

 After creating a few exercises , which is often what first films can 
be, he created what most feel is his first 'real film': MEAN STREETS. 
Famously coached by Independent film maker & actor John Casavettes, 
who told Mr. Scorsese to go make a real film. And indeed he did. 
Early on in the production New Yorkers began to hassle the young 
director, 'There's nothing Mean about these streets.' , they shouted.
Early on, Mr. Scorsese attracted controversy and it has stayed with 
him throughout his career. Taxi Driver and The last Temptation of 
Christ, possibly creating the most amount of misunderstanding & 
friction that only seemed to fuel his inspiration and also led to a good 
deal of what we commonly call in the business: Free Advertising. 

In 1974, while putting together, Alice doesn't live Here Anymore, 
he approached Ellen Burstyn for the role of Alice. While reviewing his 
films up to that point Ms. Burstyn point blank asked the young director 
if he knew 'Anything'  about women, his answer ? 'No, but I'm willing 
to learn'. The film went on to create accolades for both Ms. Burstyn, 
her co star, Kris Kristofferson and a little known discovery: Jodie Foster. 
Ms. foster would go onto a nomination for her role in Taxi Driver, 
creating a backlash and more controversy for the Director. As well 
as awards and acceptance from the global film community and 
Hollywood critics.

In 1977, his love of early musicals, music always plays a big part in 
any Scorsese production, led him to new York, New York, which was 
again, out of synch with the public's taste, yet still and all, is a lavish 

In 1980, Mr Scorsese's relationship with Robert De Niro led him 
to direct the boxing film Raging Bull, which was a brutal and 
realistic portrait of Jake La Motta. Shot in classic black & white, 
unheard of at the time, winning an Oscar for his long time 
collaborator, Mr. De Niro and so to be stalwart Scorsese actor 
Joe Pesci as well as the discovery of actress Cathy Moriarty. 
The sound design is phenomenal, each boxing match is shot 
with a variation, the scenes in between the matches often, quiet 
& still, one can easily see Mr. Scorsese's influence by the Italian 
Neo-Realists here: Visconti, Rosellini and a love of the early boxing 
Films of the 1940's and 1950's.  I was honored to visit the Film Set 
of this production and had the pleasure of lunching with Mr De Niro, 
meeting the real Jake La Motta and viewing the master director at 
work with thousands of extras in costume. Something I can only 
liken to watching Rembrandt paint an oil painting in his studio. 

In 1983, Mr Scorsese took on the world of comedy's underbelly 
& the aspects of fame that can lead to desperation, insanity and 
obsession with The King of Comedy. Jerry Lewis, Robert De Niro 
and Sandra Bernhardt collide in this wacky, dark and uncomfortable 
look at the sidelines of television and entertainment. A visionary work 
that hints at where we are today with fans obsessive attachment to 
the famous, rich and influential entertainers of television, music & 

In 1985, Mr Scorsese directed one of the films that are sometimes 
known as his smaller films: After Hours. A crazy, funny and Art House 
hit that has comedic flare and wit, utilizing the art world, New York's 
neighborhoods and a hipster paranoia that reminds one of films like, 
'Its a mad, mad, mad, mad World'.

Also included in this category would be 1986' s The Color of Money, 
which was a sort of Part Two to The Hustler, starring Paul Newman 
as fast Eddie Felson and utilizing a rising young star Tom Cruz. 
The film was a comeback for Paul Newman and is a great piece of 
cinema that takes us deep into the world of Pool Hall hustling & 
another early cameo by the great actor Forrest Whittaker. Mr Scorsese 
is a lot like Spike Lee, in that they both court controversy and have a 
tendency to discover great new talent: Sam Jackson for instance. 

1988 brought us, The Last Temptation of Christ, which emblazoned 
a sort of hysteria from christians which unfortunately marred the 
audiences opinions against an otherwise thoughtful and interesting 
take on the possibilities of the life of the man known as Jesus the Christ. 
It is ultimately and interesting an thoughtful piece with an outstanding 
and inspired performance by Willem Defoe and guest performers such 
as John Lurie and David Bowie. Mr Scorsese's casting choices are always 
a big part of his creative collaboration and process. Universal Studios 
was demonized for the movie, most of the protestors had never even 
seen the movie. Mr Scorsese was somewhat surprised by the reaction.

In 1990, Martin Scorsese returned to the screen with what would be 
considered an entire and utter Classic: GoodFellas. Up to this point 
possibly his best film ever. A great script, performances by De Niro, 
Pesci and Ray Liotta that stand the test of time, a return to the Italian 
American experience that Mr. Scorsese knows very well. Awards from 
every important film organization and three of the big Academy 
Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay. 

In 1991. Mr Scorsese brought us a remake with Cape Fear. Another 
strange, dark and menacing drama that pits Jessica Lange and Nick 
Nolte, whom the director had worked with in his section of a three 
short story feature : New York Stories, which also starred a new face 
on the screen: Steve Buscemi of Boardwalk Empire fame.  

In 1993, Mr Scorsese took on what might be considered his classic 
film renditions. One can see his love of great classic films such as 
Gone with the Wind in this film: The Age of Innocence. A giant colorful 
tapestry laden with lush food, flowers, costumes and the beginning of 
a great collaboration with actor Daniel Day Lewis, who would return to 
the Scorsese camp for Gangs of New York almost a decade later. 
More Nominations: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, etc ... 

In 1995, A return to the big Italian American genre that brought us 
Mean Streets and Goodfellas, a completion of what may be considered 
his italian trilogy, the epic film: CASINO. De Niro and Pesci return to 
the scene as well as interesting casting choices like Don Rickles as a 
casino pit boss, who would have thought of that ? An incredible and 
tour de force performance by Sharon Stone putting her front and 
center as a powerful actress in top notch form, deserving of dollars 
& respect. Possibly one of his best films up to that point in his career. 
A classic loved by all.

In 1997, Mr Scorsese, visits the asian inspired, Kundun. A tibetan 
tale of struggle and politics that surround the tibetan country and 
it's people. Some said he was out of his element here, but, even 
when Mr Scorsese stretches his boundaries as he did here, there 
is enough on the screen to inspire, teach and yes, entertain. 

In 1999, Scorsese teams up with Nicolas Cage in this adrenaline 
fueled story of an ambulance driver and his  nightmare like work 
place: The streets of the big city. A sort of Taxi driver like return 
to working class obsession and hallucination. Cage puts in a 
performance of a lifetime, while John goodman watches his partners 
slow descent into an insomnia induced insanity. The camera work 
here is fabulous. Another street film that utilizes the city itself as 
a character and even as the villain.

In 2002, a return to the big costume period film genre that was 
hinted at with Age of Innocence, but this time with the proper 
amount of guts and glory that seem to inspire this director and 
satisfy his audience. A large and difficult film that combines 
historical aspects of Scorsese's beloved New York City with the 
struggles of early Americans, religion, politics and dramatic 
storytelling. With performances by Leonardo De Caprio, who will 
become one of Mr Scorsese's greatest collaborators time & time 
again: The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island and this years 
The Wolf of Wall Street. The Gangs of New York is an epic tale that 
brings back Daniel Day Lewis in a terrifying performance as Bill The 
Butcher with a Who's Who of acting from both American and 
European Actors, straddling the dangerous territory of accents, 
costumes and acting styles that are difficult to put on the screen 
in one entire production. This is Mr. Scorsese as oil painter 
extraordinaire, his largest series to date. A difficult challenge indeed. 
We begin to see Mr Scorsese's use of the digital format utilized here 
in outrageous shots, set pieces and tunneling like transformations 
from full shots high above the city to close ups entering a characters 
pupils. This is the master film maker having a field day with the 
best actors, designers and collaborators on the planet. Amazing. 
Nominations All Around

In 2004, Mr Scorsese and De Caprio return to give us an inside 
look at the much talked about life of Howard Hughes. An interesting 
film with both Vegas, Hollywood and the insanity of being an artist, 
creator and inventor as well as the burdens of success in all walks 
of the American dream. A paranoid yet somehow innocent and 
success driven story with interesting performances and some would 
say incongruous casting choices, though still and all, great efforts 
by all involved. A dark, lush film shot with a somber and rich palette. 
Mr Scorsese is an artist first, film maker second, historian third. 
It shows here and this is a compelling film that thrusts us into 
Hughes world, and leaves us at his door step at the very 
end. Broken, battered, wondering. Nominations All Around.

In 2006, Mr Scorsese takes on the Irish Boston mob scene 
with The Departed. Working with Jack Nicholson, who was 
famously cajoled by the likes of Mark Wahlberg and De Caprio 
to participate in this picture. A return to the Goodfellas like 
genre complete with FBI Agents, Irish Gang Ethos and codes 
of conduct. This film is driven mostly by great performances 
by both Wahlberg and De Caprio. One can see there keen interest 
in the project and their enthusiasm and ability carries the film up 
and over whatever limitations exist within the written material. 
Best Director Awards across the board: The Academy, Golden 
Globe, Everyone agrees Martin Scorsese is a master film maker 
who tells stories that are true to America.

In 2010, Mr Scorsese and Leonardo De Caprio stay several steps 
ahead of their audience in this strange, psycho drama of the old 
school variety: Shutter Island. A head scratcher to say the least. 
A psyche out of the Hitchcockian variety: Rear Window with 
Shutters on it. Another dark and rather difficult film to view. 
Leonardo De Caprio twisting and retching about in a manner 
reminiscent of his early and incredibly naked performances such 
as his role in Gilbert Grape. Another brave & discordant rendition 
that is probably a bit ahead of it's time. Many of  Mr Scorsese's 
films are decades ahead, creating entire genres & a new crop of 
film makers who fill a certain void: Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, 
Paul Thomas Anderson.

In 2011, Mr Scorsese utilizes the digital media to create a life long 
dream project: HUGO.  Which is a much more mainstream project 
that catapults his popularity into the mainstream for audiences of 
all ages. Over 35 nominations from film organizations around the 
world recognize his talent, efforts and contributions.  

Which brings us to 2013, The Wolf of Wall Street. Starring 
Leonardo De Caprio, one of his greatest collaborators, based 
on a great book, Mr. Scorsese always does well with adaptions. 
A story line that Americans will indeed be interested in and 
already everyone is talking about this film. We are looking 
forward to seeing it and you will find a review on these pages. 

Of course the Documentaries have not been mentioned in 
this appreciation, but Mr Scorsese is a fine and thorough 
documentarian: Contributions to WoodStock, The Last Waltz, 
The Blues, Shine a Light, George Harrison and a slew of 
important short films. Mr Scorsese is also the executive 
producer and pilot creator of important cable film series 
such as The Board Walk Empire Series on Home Box office.  


Mr Scorsese's list of favorite films: 

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Stanley Kubrick
(1963) – Federico Fellini
Ashes and Diamonds (1958) – Andrzej Wajda
Citizen Kane (1941) – Orson Welles
The Leopard (1963) – Luchino Visconti
Paisan (1946) – Roberto Rossellini
The Red Shoes (1948) – Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger
The River (1951) – Jean Renoir
Salvatore Giuliano (1962) – Francesco Rosi
The Searchers (1956) – John Ford
Ugetsu Monogatari (1953) – Mizoguchi Kenji
Vertigo (1958) – Alfred Hitchcock